It was my birthday yesterday, so as a present, I bought myself a ticket to an advance screening (it technically opened the 21st) to “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” the second adaptation, and first in English, of the Stieg Larsson book of the same name. Having read the book, and watched the Swedish version of the movie, I was probably more excited for this movie than any other movie that came out this year. The book, in my opinion, was nearly unreadable with all the Swedish names and characters, but once the story actually begins, it was hard to put down. For those that have not read the book, which I recommend despite its shortcomings, the story is about disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist who opens the story by being convicted of libel after righting a story about a powerful industrialist. The magazine he works for is in the dumps and he decides to take some time off after being offered the opportunity to write the memoir of a competing industrialist while simultaneously investigating the disappearance and/or murder of said industrialist’s niece.
Like any crime/procedural, Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig in this version of the film, finds the same information that everyone else had to that point. Luckily for him, he’s able to hire research assistant Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara, as a research assistant. Blessed with a photographic memory and the ability to do some interesting things with computers, she is able to find out a little more about the disappearance, and after all sorts of research, they find out what happened and go about their merry lives.
In the meantime, however, Lisbeth, who at the age of 23 is still a ward of the state after some craziness as a juvenile, is sexually assaulted by her state-appointed guardian, who than forces her to perform sex acts in order to access her money. This doesn’t last very long as Lisbeth puts an end to these shenanigans and can focus her attention on Mikael’s investigation. They both learn to appreciate one another, one more than the other, and turn into a great working team. Good, or at least not as bad, triumphs over evil and people walk away holding hands. What more could you want in a movie?
One reason that I was initially intrigued by this movie was the fact that it was directed by David Fincher, a guy who’s only directed at least two of my favorite movies (“Se7en” and “Fight Club“), and many other great movies like “The Social Network” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I kinda feel like Brad Pitt would have been in this movie if not for “Moneyball,” but I digress. The fact that he directed the movie was forgotten until the opening credits, and after I saw his name I remembered why I was excited to see the movie. It left an impression similar to his other great movie, and he was a great choice to helm the movie.
Another great part of the movie was the score. As the film opened with some crazy images, I felt like I was inside a music video from the band Tool. When I saw that the movie was scored by Trent Reznor, front man of Nine Inch Nails, it made more sense. If you watch the trailer, you can hear what I mean. The music moves the story along but doesn’t get in to way, also helping to make the movie not feel long at over 2 1/2 hours.
As for the rest of the movie, the two leads were excellent, with Rooney Mara really stealing the show as Lisbeth. As difficult as the character must be to play, she gave her a personality that was not just a copy of Noomi Rapace‘s excellent Lisbeth from the Swedish version of the film. Daniel Craig does a passable job passing as a Swede and doesn’t place a lot of ego behind the performance, which fits the character well. If not upstaged by the lovely Ms. Mara, he would have done fine on his own in the film, but it is called “The GIRL with the Dragon Tattoo,” so it makes sense that she take the lead.
The movie is not for the squeamish, and it earns what I’m sure was a very hard “R” rating. That said, it felt like certain scenes were ripped right out of the pages of the novel, and while every movie should be viewed as a different medium, especially those adapted from books, it was nice to see Fincher and the screenwriters stick close to the feel of the book as well. Overall, this movie diserves a lot of the critical praise it has been receiving, and I would be totally surprised if it didn’t get nominated for some Oscars, especially Rooney Mara, David Fincher, Trent Reznor for the score and the film overall. I’d give it 9 out of 10 stars and encourage those that read the book to see it. Even if you haven’t read the book, it is still an enjoyable film, but be prepared for some of the violence.
Until next time…